Student scams

Fraudsters and criminals target everyone, including young people and students.

Learn how to keep your money and yourself safe.


Fraudsters target students

They know that students at university or college might be more vulnerable because they need money or are away from their family. 

Knowing the methods they use will help you to protect yourself and your money.

Avoid becoming a money mule

What is a money mule?

A money mule is someone who lets another person use their bank account to move money. Criminals use money mules to turn the money they make from crime or ‘dirty’ money into ‘clean’ money. This money then seems to be from a legal source.

They find people to do this by creating fake ads on social media. Be wary, they will offer you a ‘get rich quick scheme’ or promise a quick way to make money.

Although it may sound like an easy way to make quick money, it’s a crime. You could go to prison for up to 14 years – a sudden end to your student experience.

Never let anyone use your account

Never use your bank account to deposit or receive money from a person or company you don’t know or trust.

Refuse any offer to use your bank account to move money, even for a close friend.

Make sure job offers are genuine and legitimate, before you accept them.

Report anyone trying to recruit you

Report anyone trying to persuade you to move money for them by calling the police on 101 – or call 999 if it’s an emergency.

You could also contact Crimestoppers either online or by calling 0800 555 111.

Tell your bank if fraudsters have your personal or banking details. Then visit Action Fraud or call them on 0300 123 2040.

Learn more about money mules

Other ways students can be targeted

Scam messages

To target you with scam messages all fraudsters need is your email address or phone number. They’ll contact you about things they know are important to students, like your student loan payments. Criminals want to convince you to give your bank or card details so that they can use this information to commit fraud.

Look out for messages that push you to act fast – either with a deadline or a threat to get you to click on a fake link. If you’re not sure a link is real, you can use website checkers like the one on Get Safe Online.

Make sure to check that the email address matches the sender’s name. On a phone, you can tap on it, or on a computer, hover your mouse cursor over it. If you want to contact the sender, use a telephone number you trust and not a new one from the message.

More about scam messages

Romance scams

Young people and students often use social media and dating sites. Fraudsters use them to build relationships and convince you to send them money.

They can use fake photos to pretend to be someone else. To avoid you finding out their true identity, they’ll come up with excuses to get out of meeting you or even chatting on a video call.

Check if a photo is real by doing a reverse image search online. Tell other people about them, so you can get your friends’ opinions.

If you’re ever asked to send money to someone you’ve met online, you can be sure that it’s a romance scam.

More about romance scams

Advance fee scams

Fraudsters know how hard it can be for students to find decent accommodation at the right price.

To take advantage of this, they post fake adverts online. If you get in touch about the property, they’ll pressure you to pay an upfront fee to take it off the market. But the scam is that there never was a property, and your money has been stolen.

Always use an agent, landlord or company you trust to find your student accommodation. Your university or college might be able to help with where to start.

Before you pay any fees or a deposit, go to view the property and check your deposit will be protected by a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme.

More about advance fee scams

Stay protected when buying online

Second-hand furniture, mobile phones or tickets at low prices might all be attractive to students. Fraudsters know this – and they’ll advertise items that don’t exist.

Avoid paying by bank transfer

This makes it harder for you to get back your money if something goes wrong, which is why fraudsters ask you to pay this way.

If the seller or website won’t let you pay by card, or in another way that protects your money, it’s a scam.

See it in person

Before handing over any money, try to see the item first. And if you’re not sure – don’t rush into a decision.

Always search for trustworthy reviews to check if the website or seller is genuine.

Does it look too good to be true?

If you’ve found just what you need at a price lower than you expected, this could be a sign of a scam. Especially if it’s hard to find or sold out everywhere else.

Fraudsters will try to pressure you to act quickly by telling you someone else is also interested in the same item.

Learn more about buying online scams.

Learn about other scams and how to protect yourself

Discover the latest scams

Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to try to steal your details and money. Discover which scams are common right now.

More on the latest scams

Have you been targeted?

Contact us right away if you think you've been scammed. We can then guide you on what to do next.

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Stay scam safe

Discover how to spot and avoid scams, and how to report fraud.

Protect yourself from fraud

Stay scam safe

Discover how to spot and avoid scams, and how to report fraud.

Protect yourself from fraud